Taliban fighters fired rockets at the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul yesterday and attacked police in three other areas in the biggest assault the insurgent group has mounted on the Afghan capital.

At least nine people were killed and 23 wounded in the four attacks, and a gunbattle around a half-built high-rise building raged on into the evening as NATO and Afghan attack helicopters circled overhead.

The fighters had chosen a strategic and heavily fortified main target for the well-coordinated attacks.

Their ability to shower artillery around the diplomatic district was a clear show of strength at a time when NATO-led forces are claiming significant security gains and preparing for their exit by 2014.

Although the Taliban have attacked multiple targets in Kabul in the past, this is the first time they have organized simultaneous assaults on such separate areas.

 

“The scale of today’s attack is unprecedented,” said Andrew Exum, fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “There was almost certainly either a breakdown in security among the Afghans with responsibility for Kabul or an intelligence failure.”

Hundreds of students from two schools were stuck near the site of the attack, and terrified parents rushing to rescue their children were stopped by security forces.

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